After its surprising run to the title game of the ODAC Tournament, including knocking off eventual national semifinalist Guilford in the quarterfinals, the Washington and Lee men’s basketball team must now address the loss of six seniors. And not just any seniors, but the heart and soul of the team, as well as the driving force behind the recent resurgence of the program.
The Generals have now finished with double-digit wins in each of the last three seasons and last year’s 16-13 (6-10 ODAC) mark was their second-straight winning season -- the first time in 20 years that W&L has accomplished such a feat.
Additionally, seventh-year Head Coach Adam Hutchinson (Amherst ’93) became the sixth head coach in the 101-year history of the basketball program to notch at least 50 wins. Hutchinson now stands at 55-98 (.359) at W&L, including 42-38 (.525) over the last three seasons.
While the 2009 graduating class was a big reason for much of the Generals’ recent success, W&L appears to be in a position to avoid a drop off and continue the upward trend.
Headlining the returnees are senior forwards
Zac White and Ben Goetsch.
“Zac and Ben have really grown into leadership roles,” noted Hutchinson. “They know what it takes to succeed in this league. Winning and the success of the program are important to them. They are both very solid defenders and very efficient on offense,” Hutchinson said of his two captains.
White is an extremely versatile forward, who at 6-foot-7 can play a variety of positions on offense and defend at least three positions at the defensive end. He was an Honorable Mention All-ODAC selection last season after averaging 9.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, while appearing in all 29 games with 21 starts. White also led the team with 35 blocks and an 81.3 percent (78-96) mark from the charity stripe.
Goetsch stands at 6-foot-5 is arguably team’s best post defender. Given his size and versatility (he is also a high jumper on the track team), Goetsch has the ability to create opportunities on the offensive end with his quickness and agility. He played more on the interior as a junior after contributing more as a perimeter player his first two seasons. He is the Generals’ leading returning scorer at 9.7 points per game, while starting 26-of-29 games last year. He also grabbed 4.4 rebounds per contest and his 51.9 shooting percentage from the floor was tops on the team among players with at least 50 shot attempts.
“He really doesn’t have any disadvantage at the five spot,” Hutchinson said of Goetsch. “With his ability to step out and shoot the jump shot, bigger guys have to respect that and he is quick enough to get to the basket on his own as well. Both Zac and Ben have the ability to make the defense help and by doing that they are able to create some nice opportunities for us.”
While familiar faces return to hold down the frontcourt, the backcourt will feature a host of relatively new faces. Junior Jason Cimino and sophomores Kyle Bond and John Guest are the only guards that return with any collegiate experience.
“John and Kyle both had really good off-seasons and it is obvious that they are putting in the work,” said Hutchinson.
Bond (6-foot-0), who missed the first half of last season with an injury, will also look to claim some of the minutes left behind by the departed Isaiah Goodman and Chris McHugh and will be greatly aided by a full preseason in which to prepare. He saw action in 11 games last season and averaged 2.2 points per game in just under 10 minutes of action.
Guest stands 6-foot-2 and is one of the Generals’ most explosive athletes. He saw action in 24 contests a year ago and averaged 2.5 points per game on 52.4 percent shooting. Expected to garner plenty of minutes in what will a revamped backcourt, his athleticism and the experience gained as a first-year will prove to be vital in 2009-10.
“John is much more under control
now,” pointed out Hutchinson. “Last year he tried to do
five things at once and now he is slowing it down a little bit and
letting the game come to him more.”
Cimino, a 5-foot-8 point guard, has appeared in 54 games as a reserve over his first two seasons and has averaged 2.8 points per game while handing out 1.6 assists per contest.
Supplementing the returnees for the upcoming season is one of Hutchinson’s largest recruiting classes. Not only are there 10 newcomers, at least one newcomer for every position on the court, but seven of them stand at least 6-foot-3, including four that are at least 6-foot-5.
The list of rookies include guard Devin Dillard (5-11, 170), guard Kelton Buchanan (5-9, 165), guard Mike Wilner (6-0, 175), guard Jeremy Adkins (6-3, 190), guard Doug Poetzsch (6-4, 170), guard Hans Harris (6-3, 175), forward Matt Gaeta (6-5, 200), forward J.D. Ey (6-5, 195), forward A.J. Dowers (6-8, 235) and center Taylor Gilfillan (6-10, 235). With so many newcomers (10) and so few returnees (6), it stands to reason that the development of the first-year class will be key this season.
“I was really pleased that we were able to get someone at each spot,” Hutchinson noted of one of his largest recruiting classes. “They have ability, that much is apparent, but they need to realize that this is a ‘grind it out’ league and teamwork, hard work and solidarity are just as, if not more, important than ability.”
“Q (McHugh), Zeke (Goodman), Kirk (Jones) and the rest those seniors really established how to win for us,” Hutchinson said of his departed leaders. “They practiced the way that they played and brought great intensity and focus to everything that they did. If the guys that we have coming back can do the same thing and show the same dedication, that is absolutely something that we can build on and use as a springboard.”
Hutchinson and those in the program believe that last year’s run to the ODAC Tournament finals was not a fluke. He stressed that the groundwork laid by those departed, combined with the work put in by those returning and the promise of those coming in has the future of W&L basketball in good hands.